Controlled Environment Agriculture – The Industry is Growing Up
Wednesday 18th March @ 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
A radical rethinking of food production systems is one of the key drivers for the development of Controlled Environment Agriculture and technologies for vertical farming. The industry is growing up and attracting significant investment, with experts predicting it will be worth an estimated £9.84Bn by 2026.
This growing market creates huge opportunities for innovation – in the construction of the growing units, improvement of smart water usage, lighting recipes to deliver all year growth, breeding to optimise rapid production and technologies for micro-control of the growing conditions.
This one-day conference provides the opportunity to hear about the global progress of Controlled Environment Agriculture:
- The latest technology innovations for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
- CEA in urban design and architecture
- Entrepreneurship in CEA; is it too late to start up?
- Connecting with citizens; vertical farming and social innovation
10.00 Welcome and introduction
10.10 Session 1 – Technology Innovations for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
Chair: Lydia Smith, Head of Innovation Farm, NIAB
Innovations in Controlled Environment Agriculture and vertical farming continue at pace globally, and the need and potential for fundamental science to add greater value is significant. In this session we explore technologies, ranging from lighting to breeding which are poised to help derived even greater value from the ability to grow food crops under highly controlled conditions.
David Farquhar, CEO, Intelligent Growth Solutions: ‘Total CEA – Time for our industry to grow up’
Simon Pearson, Director, Lincoln Institute for Agricultural Technologies: ‘Options to decarbonise CEA’
Jonathan Clarke, Head of Business Development, John Innes Centre: ‘Redesigning stem broccoli for aeroponic production’
Jack Farmer, Co-founder and Operations Lead, LettUs Grow: Title TBC
Includes lightning presentations from SMEs
- Adam Dixon, CTO, Phytoponics: ‘Deep water culture hydroponics with high nutrient crops: the commercial benefits and opportunity’
- Ross McCaffrey, Business Development, Saturn Bioponics: Title TBC
- Jock Richardson, CEO, Growpura: ‘The next generation of opportunities in CEA’
11.30 Session 2 – CEA in Urban Design and Architecture
Chair: Mark Little, Head, Norwich Office, Savills
From domestic conservatories to major commercial high-care controlled environments, vertical farming and CEA is expanding to fill many different niches. Here we explore how it can play a role in the evolution of the food system, and the mechanisms by which CEA can move food production from broadacre production to an urban setting.
Luuk Grammans, PhD Researcher, University of Wageningen & Research: ‘Vertical farming for urban food production – Let’s talk numbers’
Tom Cox, Architectural Assistant, Wotton Donaghue Architects: ‘Battersea Sky Farm – A Utopian model for urban food production’
Vanessa Lenssen, UK Director, Infarm: ‘Bringing food production to urban living’
12.30 Lunch and Exhibition
14.00 Session 3 – Entrepreneurship in CEA; Is it too late to start up?
Chair: Jonathan Clarke, Head of Business Development, John Innes Centre
The scale of global capital flow into CEA and vertical farming companies has been described as “eye-watering” and analysts are keenly awaiting the major exits and return on investment. This session focuses on the potential for new early stage ventures with innovations for CEA and explores the existing investor appetite, possible routes to market and the potential to go “beyond Babyleaf” as a start-up.
Kiryon Skippen, Chief Investment Officer, Capital Agri International: ‘CEA – Once bitten, twice shy’
Ande Gregson, CEO, Greenlab: ‘Uncontrollable Environmental Agriculture – The future isn’t all about robots and LEDs’
Kate Hofman, Co-founder, GrowUp Farms: ‘Five risks in CEA you wish you’d never had to think about’
15.00 Session 4 – Connecting with Citizens; Vertical Farming and Social Innovation
Chair: James Green, Director of Farming, G’s Fresh
Changes to the global agri-food system are urgent and inevitable. The shift in mindset from ‘consumers’ to ‘citizens’ is seen by some as a way of providing more effective insights into the food system, as well as an appreciation of how to help people engage with the methods of food production. This session will explore the potential role of vertical farming and CEA as an agent for social innovation in the food system of the future, as well as considering the central role of food production in civic society.
The discussion will involve short introductions by each of the panellists followed by a facilitated conversation, with the opportunity for questions from delegates.
- Neil Sanderson, Non-Executive Director, Home Harvest
- Jamie Burrows, CEO, Vertical Future
- Johnathan Ransom, CEO, Square Mile Farms
- John Oswald, CEO, Method
- Mira Merme, CEO, OneFarm
- Vanessa Lenssen, UK Director, Infarm
16.15 Closing comments
17:00 Event close
Speakers at this event will bring insights and expertise from a wide range of organisations and institutions – some of the speakers include:
Adam Dixon is a co-founder of Phytoponics, an award winning CEA agtech startup that has raised over £650k to date to launch a unique deep water culture hydroponics technology suited for high nutrient crops.
Adam is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Cardiff University and a United Nations Young Champion of the Earth, dedication to implementing practical sustainable agriculture technology around the world. With a special interest and expertise in plant root physiology and root zone control, he is now developing new technology for a multitude of crops including strawberries, raspberries and even Goji berries at the Phytoponics research farm at Stockbridge Technology Centre in Selby.
CEO, Intelligent Growth Solution
David joined Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) as CEO in November 2017. IGS is a Scottish-based agri-tech business and David’s strategic appointment was made to raise the Series A funding round, recruit a world-class management team and drive global expansion; the first two of these have been delivered.
David is a seasoned technology entrepreneur, with a track record of driving shareholder value, based upon building an empowering, collaborative Culture as a Platform for growth. Most recently he was CEO of global SaaS vendor Workplace, leading the team through a hugely successful turnaround, transformation, growth and exit delivering a double-digit money multiple return in less than three years. In the past 27 years he has completed almost 30 transactions as a founder/CEO, angel investor and board director, including risk capital investments (PE, VC and angel), acquisitions and trade sales in Europe, North America and Asia.
Co-founder and Operational Lead, LettUs Grow
Jack Farmer is the Co-Founder and Operational Lead of LettUs Grow, a start-up using innovative aeroponic technology to design the next-generation of indoor farms. Their mission is to reduce the waste and carbon footprint of fresh produce by empowering anyone to grow delicious food near its point of consumption.
He’s a passionate advocate for the use of social enterprise, policy and the circular economy to bring about a more sustainable future. Jack specialises in controlled environment agriculture and its use as a means to reduce agricultural pressures upon natural ecosystems.
Jock grew up in Australia in a farming business that was focused on large scale food production. Despite a career spanning aviation, risk management and technology he has always maintained his interest in food production and is now an investor and Director at Growpura. He holds a Masters in risk management, a bachelor degree in Science (Botany) and has invested in other UK technology businesses related to Artificial Intelligence.
He has sailed in the Clipper round the world yacht race, and has also been known to tear around dirt roads at high speed on a motorbike. Just don’t ask him about emus and the damage they do when protecting their young!
Co-founder, Square Mile Farms
Johnathan is a Co-founder of Square Mile Farms (SMF), a vertical farming business operating since the beginning of 2019. SMF are building a network of vertical farms across London, initially by working with big businesses to introduce farms into the workplace for employee engagement and wellbeing. SMF currently operate three farms, including one located on the roof of Microsoft’s HQ in Paddington Central.
Johnathan is a Chartered Surveyor, has had a career in property and finance, and was formerly the COO of a successful Fin-tech startup.
Head of Business Development, John Innes Centre
Jonathan is Head of Business Development and part of the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation team at the John Innes Centre (JIC). He is responsible for interactions with Industry, Technology Transfer, Innovation and Enterprise. Between 2014 and 2016 he span out six companies in agri-Tech, medTech, industrial biotech, food and diagnostics. He is non-executive Director of three companies and a Board member of Agri-TechE and the Food Drink and Agriculture Board of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Jonathan gained his BSc from the University of Leeds in 1985, and a PhD in Plant Genetics from the University of East Anglia (JIC) in 1993. He spent three years as an EU Research Fellow at the Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology, Universität Gent, Belgium. Since 1996 he has worked at the John Innes Centre as a Project Manager on EU research programmes on functional genomics and as CSO of the JIC Genome Laboratory. He was appointed to his current role in 2009.
Chief Investment Officer and Co-founder, Capital Agri International
Kiryon is the Chief Investment Officer for Capital Agri International, which he founded in conjunction with three others in 2017. The investment firm is a partnership of agricultural specialists with wide ranging ‘boots on the ground’ international experience who identify, originate and facilitate investments in agriculture, food and agri-tech across the globe paired with established fundraising experience in natural capital space.
Prior to setting up Capital Agri International, Kiryon grew up in farming, graduated from university as a biochemist and has spent his career in agriculture – having worked for 10 years with Bayer and BASF, before Hutchinsons crop production specialists where he continues to be retained as a consultant.
PhD Researcher, Wageningen University & Research
Luuk is a researcher focusing on the interface of agriculture and building engineering at Wageningen University & Research and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. His research project pertains to the building design, the systems design and the performance analysis of plant factories/vertical farms for urban food production.
Luuk’s final research goal is to precisely quantify the resource requirement of plant factories and increase their performance through systems engineering.
Co-founder and CEO, OneFarm
Mira is co-founder and CEO of OneFarm. She is an agricultural entrepreneur having started indoor farming enterprise in the early 1980s. As CEO of London stock exchange listed company, her understanding and experience in the food sector expanded with the creation of a group of catering companies.
Understanding the impact of changing weather patterns on food production she decided that controlled environment agricultural production was an efficient way for creating additional food supply. To that purpose OneFarm has derisked a piece of the sustainable agriculture revolution and will be deploying large-scale fully circular vertical farms to provide safe, affordable, nutritious and environmentally sound food to local populations.
OneFarm is creating a ‘new category’ of affordable fresh healthy nutritious food and plant pharmaceuticals for local communities – on a global scale.
Non-Executive Director, Home Harvest
Neil has over 25 years’ experience across the food industry in both the UK and Europe. He began his career in the milling and baking industry with RHM, holding both operational and sales roles before moving to French multinational Danone where he held senior sales roles in the Jacobs biscuit business in the UK, before moving to Ireland to be MD of their business there. He returned to the UK to become MD at Aunt Bessie’s (part of the William Jackson Food group), where he oversaw the rapid expansion of the brand, then, following a short period consulting, joined Findus group where he held senior roles in the UK and Eastern Europe. In 2011 when he joined Florette UK and Ireland as MD; Neil oversaw the UK activities of the business, part of the French agri-coop Agrial, and was instrumental in the development of Angflor, one of the UK’s largest protected salad growing farms.
In 2016 Neil decided to step back from full time roles to take up a portfolio life, splitting his time between business and 3rd sector interests. Neil holds several commercial positions and has a specific interest in advanced agriculture. He is a founding director of Home Harvest Ltd, an in-home growing system start up, as well as a non-executive director of Growing Underground Ltd, an innovative urban farming business based in Clapham South London. He is also non-executive director of Ulrick and Short Ltd a specialist clean label food ingredients business.
Director, Lincoln Institute for Agricultural Technologies (LIAT)
Simon is Professor of Agri Food Technology at the University of Lincoln. His research group specialise in the development of robotics, energy systems and data driven technologies to drive productivity in the agri-food sector. He is the Director of the Lincoln Institute of Agri Food Technology, and co-investigator of the £6.9M EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Centre for Doctoral training in agri food robotics and the new Lincoln Agri Robotics centre. His research includes analyses of the potential of controlled environment agriculture systems.
Architectural Assistant, Wotton Donaghue Architects
Tom joined Wotton Donoghue Architects in Bristol as a Part II Architectural Assistant in 2018, after achieving his Masters in Architecture from De Montfort University. For his Thesis project, Tom designed a hypothetical ‘Sky Farm’ to be situated on the bank of the River Thames in Battersea, south London. A utopian idea for a future where urban populations are booming and air pollution has reached a critical level. The multi-functional building would be a space-saving solution for high-yield food production, harnessing the nitrogen cycle to capture car emissions and convert to an organic plant fertilizer within the tower.
UK Director, Infarm
Growing up in Norfolk and Suffolk, immersed in the family wholesale fruit and veg business, Vanessa left school at 16 to work for a travel start-up as her parents don’t believe in further education. She went onto work in various roles across all sectors of travel including stints as a MD for a low cost airline and MD for STA Travel. Vanessa ‘rebelled’ in her 30s by doing an MBA at London Business School.
In 2007, Vanessa started her first travel company GoLearnTo, and her second travel tech business in 2015, and is co-founder of Ibiza’s best fine dining restaurant Amante Beach Club. Vanessa recently spent 2.5 years as Director of Innovation and Change for an automotive tech business, before coming back to her roots to combine farming and a love of fresh food with technology at Infarm, the indoor urban farming company, where she leads their UK business.
Aponic Ltd have designed, developed and now manufacture a vertical soilless growing system that uses 90% less water than traditional growing methods.
It can be used to grow low carbon, high yielding herbs, salad crops, flowers, fruit and vegetables. Being vertical means it turns acreage into volume, maximising ground usage and making an infertile plot almost anywhere in the world into a low-input, high-value output productive farm.
It is now perfectly feasible to grow or test consistent, clean crops using unique nutrient, pH and hardness combinations, on any soil type. This includes contaminated land in towns to produce cheaper, high quality local produce which has zero food miles as it is used where it is grown.
In addition, there is no polluting nutrient run off from the tubes: all of the water and nutrients are recycled until they are completely used by the plants. There is no soil preparation, massively reduced labour costs in planting, harvesting and tending the crops and no herbicide required.
Aponic are supplying a new generation of farmers and education facilities, who are very aware of the need to diversify into niche markets and create sustainable, secure growing methods to meet the global realities of modern food cultivation.
Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing
Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing is a leading publisher of the latest research in agricultural science and technology. Its editors and authors are some of the world’s leading experts in their field. It has published 75 books and 1000 chapters which provide authoritative literature reviews of key topics in achieving climate-smart agriculture.
Cambridge Consultants is a partner to the ambitious. It is the secret ingredient, applying market insight and technical expertise to transform clients’ businesses, through development of world-changing products and services.
The company delivers innovative firsts in global markets including agritech, where it works with clients to improve yields, reduce costs and advance harvesting efficiencies. With advanced capabilities in AI, robotics, sensor development, fluid mechanics and wireless communications, Cambridge Consultants helps companies to improve their precision agriculture product lines by moving to row-by-row and individual plant treatment technologies.
With a team of more than 800 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Cambridge (UK), Tokyo and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries.
For the past 50 years, Cranfield has been contributing to enhancing natural capital and ensuring that global food systems are more resilient for the future. It is recognised worldwide by industry, government and academe for its research and teaching in plants, soil, water and air.
Cranfield believes that environmental problems can be alleviated through technological innovation and risk management. Its academics are leading a new four-year programme investigating the role of digital data in improving understanding of environmental change, after being appointed Constructing a Digital Environment Champions by the National Environment Research Council (NERC).
Cranfield is a key partner in two of the four UK Government-sponsored Agri-tech Centres – Agri-Epi and CHaP, and are world leading in digital agriculture, using advances in sensor technology, informatics and data sciences to drive innovation. Cranfield’s education, research and consultancy is enhanced by world-class facilities including the National Reference Centre for Soils, which houses the largest collection of its kind in Europe and is recognised as the UK’s definitive source of national soils information.
Food Enterprise Park
The Food Enterprise Park is part of the Norwich Food Enterprise Zone a few miles from the Norwich Research Park. It provides “Room to Grow”, the regional food and drink cluster of innovation, production and distribution, so business can access modern roads infrastructure and nurture new opportunities to add value into the food supply chain.
With full planning permission and site infrastructure in place it is the place and space to re-locate your business or site your new facility.
JP Trett is a specialist recruitment and consultancy business in the agricultural and agri tech sectors. Its focus is on developing professional careers for ambitious individuals with a passion for current and future technologies, with a level of adaptability which allows it to remain ahead of the curve in engaging with clients at the forefront of this niche and expanding sector.
From graduate roles up to Boardroom appointments, JP Trett has successfully added value and know-how to many blue-chip clients within these specialist sectors, based on meaningful industry expertise gained from career experience in this field.
The company’s aim is always to support the growth of agricultural technology as many businesses embrace new means to present and analyse data for their customers. It achieves this by extensive networking, close links with Government Departments, advisory, technical and commercial organisations, attendance at key industry events, conferences and exhibitions to ensure its strategic industry overview remains complete at all times.
JP Trett has many long-term clients; new business is in many cases the result of a high-level recommendation, and it continually attracts bright and switched-on candidates. Business consultancy is JP Trett’s latest offering to complement its considerable recruitment expertise.
By 2050 we’ll have 2 billion more mouths to feed. This will need to be done with less farmland, degraded soil and in an unstable climate. Indoor farming offers a climate-resilient solution to grow fresh produce consistently and sustainably.
LettUs Grow’s patent-pending technology represents a step-change in efficiency for the indoor farming sector. It can grow fresh produce without soil, all-year-round and in any environment – from cities to deserts – with minimal impact on the planet. The technology has shown growth rate increases of 70% over hydroponics and uses up to 95% less water than traditional agriculture. An easy-to-use software platform, Ostara®, provides data automation, optimisation and business planning tools to farmers, helping to maximise yields and minimise labour and resource use.
There are many applications for the technology including urban and traditional farms, food corporations and research centres. For example, farms could be located in food distribution centres to minimise food miles, keep food fresher for longer and reduce protective packaging. This would reduce the carbon footprint of fresh produce while simultaneously slashing both food and packaging waste.
Pessl Instruments has been providing practical solutions for informed decision-making for over 35 years. Manufacturing a complete range of wireless, solar-powered monitoring systems under the iMETOS brand and an online platform FieldClimate, its technology is used and trusted in agriculture, horticulture, meteorology, hydrology and more. The iMETOS brand lasts longer, performs better, is easier to use and offers the lowest total cost of ownership.
The nutrition of hydroponic crops has traditionally depended upon the use of ‘two part’ or even ‘three part’ fertilizers. There is also an additional requirement for acids or alkali products to control the pH. For automated systems, this requires 4-5 Dosatrons and a dedicated computer. Such a system is expensive, takes up considerable space, and requires all users to be thoroughly trained.
In 2018 Plater Bio launched Gold Leaf, the world’s first fertilizer to contain every essential plant nutrient in a chelated and pH buffered form.
Gold Leaf radically simplifies hydroponic cultivation, and as such, it is now possible to take a crop from seed to harvest with just one product to fulfil your crops nutritional requirements!
Gold Leaf has been successfully tested on over 30 crop species in ebb and flood hydroponics.
Plater Bio are keen to talk to potential new partners to increase the use of Gold Leaf through trials in new regions, growing systems, and crops.
Plater Bio are an independent manufacturer of novel agro-chemical inputs, based in Derbyshire
If you are the crème de la crème in the agri-business, produce and food retail sectors and are looking for a fresh career move, then look no further! Redfox offers ‘Grade A’ executive recruitment services to some of the best-loved and wholesome brands in the UK and also overseas. From leading international companies right through to small family-owned businesses, Redfox works with a range of businesses and pair the highest calibre candidates with their requirements.
Farmers have traditionally been price takers not price makers but from now on it will be those businesses that innovate, diversify and evolve – differentiating themselves in the marketplace – that are set to thrive. The successful farm will need to adopt the most efficient and productive technologies and farming systems, harvesting and scrutinising data to inform decision making.
Savills provides a range of specialist management and consultancy services to food and farming businesses, delivering practical support and guidance in a constantly changing industry. Savills understands that farming today covers wide-ranging activities and that many farms operate as complex enterprises, so its involvement draws on the broadest land and property expertise in the UK.
Exhibition spaces are available!
A limited number of exhibition spaces are available at the conference for organisations wishing to showcase new innovations, technologies or equipment in the area of Controlled Environment Agriculture to the high level audience of farmers and growers, agronomists, investors, and the technical providers to this exciting industry.
We are particularly keen to feature innovations with a practical and visual element so that delegates can see how they currently operate (or are expected to work) in the real world. Growing units, medium and fertiliser samples, imaging technologies, robots and the like all welcome!
This is an exciting opportunity to feature your organisation as part of a one-day conference on the future of different growing systems, the challenges of implementing a system and the logistics involved with integrating a controlled environment agriculture into the food value chain.
For more details about how to exhibit please get in contact.
Exhibition stand cost:
Free for members (+ £50 ticket cost for each delegate)* Stand-holders can buy additional delegate tickets for half-price
£150 for non-members (+ £85 ticket cost for each delegate)* Stand-holders can buy additional delegate tickets for half-price
*prices exclude VAT
Booking and cost
Controlled Environment Agriculture - The Industry is Growing Up
This event is £50 for members of Agri-TechE, and £85 for non-members. Please note the fee is non-refundable for cancellation within 5 working days of the event.
Use the link on the top right of the event listing to book - members will need to log in or create an account in order to access the discounted rate.
To find out more about becoming a member of Agri-TechE, please click here.
5 Basis CPD points will be available for attending this event.
If you would like to hear about what Agri-TechE is up to, or about other events we run for both members/non-members of Agri-Tech East please sign up for our newsletter. We send about 2 emails a month, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Norwich Research Park
Norwich NR4 7UG, Norfolk
|Non-Member Fee||£ 85.00 + £ 17.00 VAT|